Cops mull charges against viral rap stars

Cops mull charges against viral rap stars

Anti-military song skyrockets to 12 million views

The background theme of the black and white rap video is the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University - culminating in the infamous photo of the hanged body being beaten with a chair. (YouTube/Rap Against Dictatorship)
The background theme of the black and white rap video is the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University - culminating in the infamous photo of the hanged body being beaten with a chair. (YouTube/Rap Against Dictatorship)

The Royal Thai Police's Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) will conclude within a few days whether an explosively popular rap song perceived to take aim at the military government breaches the Computer Crime Act, the deputy spokesman of the agency said yesterday.

Pol Col Siriwat Deepo said investigators are of examining the lyrics and visual images of Prathet Ku Mee (What My Country's Got).

The music video was uploaded to YouTube on Oct 22 by the anti-military dictatorship group, Rap Against Dictatorship (RAD).

The video spiked in popularity after the police and government criticised it. On Friday morning there were 600,000 views on YouTube but by Sunday morning had skyrocketed to 12 million views with no sign of slowing. Dozens of users copied or embedded the video on their own sites, pages and channels on other social media platforms..

Pol Col Siriwat, also chief of the TCSD's sub-division 3, said the initial probe suggested the song might violate Section 14 (2) of the act, which concerns "putting false information into the computer system, which is bound to damage national security".

According to Mr Siriwat, the song could undermine investor confidence and economic stability.

He said no one has lodged a complaint against the rap group.

"If the song is concluded to flout laws, the TCSD could take legal action against those involved, who have to be summoned to give their accounts to officers," Mr Siriwat said.

Eyes are now on what authorities plan to do with the RAD.

The group yesterday posted on its Facebook page, saying: "We are all safe and no arrests have been made by state officials as rumoured."

The group said it had received morale boosts from people through social networks and other channels, including those who may have disagreed with the lyrics or hold different political views.

"This incident confirms that no matter how different people are, we are able to fight against the incorrectness together," the group said.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he wondered which elements of the song violate the law.

Criticism can be made as long as it adheres to the facts, but whether it is suitable or not depends on an individual's viewpoint, the former prime minister said, adding: "In my opinion, this rap is normal. Whether it is liked or disliked rests with individuals."

Panthongtae "Oak" Shinawatra, son of fugitive prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, posted on his Facebook page, saying authorities had inadvertently made the song popular.

"Seniors should accept different views because they should set an example for youth, shouldn't they?" he asked.

Rangsiman Rome, a political activist attached to the Democracy Restoration Group, said the song reflects the problems of Thai society, and creators want to point those out so they will be solved.

"Society wants these kinds of people," he said.

Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, spokesman of the Sam Mitr (Three Allies) group, seen as the regime's recruiting arm that supports Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's return to power after the election expected in late February, said the song's wording is relatively acceptable because it points out situations that happen in society.

Polphum Wipatphumiprathet, a former Pheu Thai MP for Bangkok, said the prospect of taking action under the Computer Crime Act in this case appears to be "far-fetched".

"This kind of law has always raised questions as to whether it is being exploited by those in power," Mr Polphum said.

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said the song has nothing to do with damaging the country, noting the nation can be strengthened by people who can accept different viewpoints.

This is the video in dispute.

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